Arthur Allen: tomato writer and the vaccine industry’s original media go-to guy, has now been thrown under the bus by the very folks he spent years defending – the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Just last month the department expressed skepticism over the validity of a quote he attributed to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, which was included in a February 5, 2010 interview for Reader’s Digest, "H1N1 The Report Card"
More than a year after my article, Did Kathleen Sebelius Pressure Media to Deny Vaccine Safety Voices?, which uncovered HHS Secretary Sebelius’ disturbing quote to Arthur Allen that “We have reached out to media outlets to try to get them to not give the views of these people [vaccine safety advocates] equal weight in their reporting,” Greg Dobbs of HDNet followed up on my initial findings, asking HHS to verify this statement Allen attributed to her. The response, in writing, was a shocker:
In other words, Arthur Allen, who had devoted his career to defending the vaccine industry – particularly the mercury-based preservative thimerosal - long before Chris Mooney, Michael Specter or Seth Mnookin entered the controversy - was effectively sacrificed to save the HHS Secretary from well-deserved embarrassment.
Allen even wrote an entire book in the vaccine industry’s defense. And yet, the HHS has now suggested he may have fabricated the quote he attributed to Sebelius. Especially bizarre is that Allen was hardly leading her to the answer she gave when he asked, “What can be done about public mistrust of vaccines?”
This incident also raises questions about how the HHS and perhaps other government agencies will eventually behave towards sympathetic reporters in the future, some of whom have engaged in serious ethical violations, which range from having blatantly lied to committing outright fraud. Brian Deer has committed both. Let’s also not forget Gardiner Harris who violated the ethical guidelines of The New York Times.
Will these journalists also be thrown under the bus along with Arthur Allen? If so, how will they react?
Will they sacrifice their own credibility to support the people they’ve spent years defending? Will they turn against their new betrayers? Or will they say nothing at all? In order to find out how Arthur Allen would respond, I sent him an email asking if the quote he attributed to Sebelius, later questioned by the HHS, was true.
It’s been at least two weeks and he still has not responded.
Jake Crosby has Asperger Syndrome and is a contributing editor to Age of Autism. He is a 2011 graduate of Brandeis University with a BA in both History and Health: Science, Society and Policy. He currently attends The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services where he is studying for an MPH in epidemiology.